Every Friday, we bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues, and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice.
1. Major terror attack in Belgium kills 31 and wounds nearly 300; many remain in critical condition. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State 8 hours after the attack; it remains unclear how many were involved. There were a number of warnings that an attack was imminent, but the Belgian security apparatus was not prepared to stop the attack. This is in part because Islamic State networks in Belgium have had time to entrench themselves and develop sophisticated anti-surveillance and telecommunication protocols.
The attacks have triggered an intense manhunt to find and arrest others believed to be involved in the attack, including a well-trained and expert bomb-maker. Policy experts are now grappling with what had led to the radicalization in Brussels, and some point to a failure of domestic policy that has led to a generation of poor youth without hope for a future.
The Brussels assault has eclipsed a major attack in Istanbul last weekend, which was also claimed by the Islamic State.
2. Air Force One lands in Cuba for the first time the Coolidge Administration in 1928. The visit was the latest in a series of moves by the Obama Administration to thaw US-Cuba relations. During the visit, Cuban dictator Raúl Castro criticized the US economic embargo. But it is unclear whether the embargo will be lifted any time soon, as the embargo cannot be lifted without congressional approval. This approval does not appear to be forthcoming. The NY Times has a terrific photo essay showing Cuba “on the edge of change.”
Thousands gathered to welcome President Obama, but those not in attendance include the thousands of political dissidents jailed for political opposition to the Castro regime. The visit was a perfect opportunity to discuss human rights. Whether these conversations were productive, only time will tell.
3. Greece struggles to implement new rules for migrants after deal with EU and Turkey. The new EU rules will require Greece to send back migrants not eligible for asylum. Many migrants that had made the harrowing journey were not aware of the new policies. The EU has pledged more than 2,000 police and asylum experts to assist Greece with processing new arrivals, but these personnel have not yet arrived.
4. Former Bosnian leader convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Radovan Karadzic, who is 70 years old, was sentenced for 40 years in prison for his role in the atrocities committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, including the killing of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. The trial, which took place 21 years after Karadzic was indicted, represents the most significant trial of the ICTY's 23-year history.
5. The battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State has begun. The offensive to retake the Nineveh Plain from the Islamic State has been anticipated for months. This week, the long-term offensive began, led by Iraqi troops and assisted by U.S. marines. The assault will be long and difficult, and the Islamic State is not expected to give up Mosul without a significant fight. The city is Iraq's second largest and the most significant population center for Iraqi Sunnis. Iraqi forces have been positioning for the battle for Mosul for months, obtaining strategic positions that will help in cutting supply lines to Mosul. This will be a story to watch, but most experts do not believe that Iraqi forces will be able to complete the offensive before the end of 2016.
Have suggestions for a top 5 article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected]